If you were around in the 90s you should have some memory associated with the 2D animated Lion King. My memory has to do with my cousin Saso's fascination with the film.
His love for the animated movie was so strong he knew the film word for word and could never get enough of it.
So I took my kids to see the 3D animated photo real experience... we were also doing our Circle of Life experience... was it worth it? Well, let's dig in...
The Lion King is thus far one of the most faithful remakes to Disney's animated back catalogue - from recreating iconic scenes (such as the opening shot-for-shot), to renditions of iconic songs to remaining faithful to the story arcs.
Yet it's not a direct copy. Jon Favreau (director of Iron Man and Iron Man 2 aka Happy Hogan in the MCU movies) who directs this new recreation, gives the original animated film some cosmetic changes such as replacing the white American voice actors and Jeremy Irons as the Lions, giving the Lions voices to people of African descent.
The hyenas now have Swahili names and the animals have more animaltraits than human ones unlike in the 2D animated classic.
Favreau has toned down the buffoonery of the hyenas - they're still funny but more vicious. This Lion King tries to be more realistic in feel which means no Lions giving each other looks of "We're going to pork," as they sing Can You Feel The Love Tonight.
Even though one misses the rich, beautiful, colourful oversaturation of the 90s classic - it takes some time getting used to the photo real lions talking - The Lion King does deepens its own mythology in this CGI blockbuster, which makes up for what was shredded from the screenplay to make it feel more "real"
From Scar's motivations to an allusion to how Scar got his scars - even to how the film keeps eluding to the circle of life within the story through its visuals - it's cleverly and beautifully done.
The photo real CGI is astounding. From young Simba to the recreation of environments, it all looks brilliantly beautiful.Unlike the original true to the geography of Tanzania.
There's a charm to it that is unique to the movie, one appreciates it even more when not constantly contrasting it with the original.
It does help that Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner are brilliant as Timon and Pumba, their ad-libs are to die for.They bring humour and heart to their characters
Then there's the iconic James Earl Jones - one of the few voices from the original movie to make a comeback, and it's as majestic as ever. Jones is pushing 80's but that vce still has the gravitas.
Shahadi Wright Joseph is brilliant as young Nala and JD McCrary has the right amount of sass and boyish charm to pull off young Simba.
Even though we don't get a whole lot of him, but Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover gives adult Simba the right musical notes.Theres the right mix of vulneranility and laid back-ness to his voice work.
Hakuna Matata benefits from Glovers musical gifts and his duet with B is great. Pity B 's Nala does not have a larger arc ala what Disney did with Alladin's live action adaption when it comes to the female co-lead. That said, I still appreciate the film.
I think Chiwetel Ejiofor is so underrated as Scar - he brings the Shakespeare back into this Shakespearian tale.His not Jeremy Irons but he gives Scar the irony and gravitas of theatre stage actor espicially in the voice work.
Disney pushed representation hard with this one and it worked for me so if you want your nostalgia with a little bit more bite then watch it, but if you want a cookie-cut-out copy then stick to your 2D animated version. There's still a lot of heart and magic to this tale, some cool additions and reversions that i find heartwarming.
What it felt like: another re-telling of Hamlet with more happy-go lucky songs with avatar level effects.
Trivia: Most of the names of the animals are Swahili-based, with Simba meaning Lion, Nala = Gift, Mufasa = king (UPDATE : The latest version has grossed $1billion dollars in three weeks, Disney is cashing it in in 2019)
* crap **Ja nee *** Ya zama **** Almost Perfect ***** Instant Classic